Try opening any of your parents’ or grandparents’ classic cookbooks from the 1960s or 1970s, when French cuisine ruled the world, and you’re bound to find recipes oozing with butter. For decades, few cooks dared to imagine replacing butter with a healthier option.
Now we know that while butter is rich in saturated fat, olive oil is packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, which our body finds easier to ingest. In addition, extra-virgin olive oil also contains polyphenols, along with other virtues such as boosting circulation and helping the intestines.
We’ve revamped a few classic recipes by replacing traditional butter with healthier olive oil. Bear in mind, though, that you should replace 1 part butter with ¾ part of olive oil.
Sponge cake. We can make this popular cake far healthier if we use olive oil. It’s just as spongy as with butter and we can also use olive oil to grease the tin to stop the cake mixture sticking.
Risotto. Although Italians aren’t fond of tinkering with their classic recipes, there’s no denying that more and more of them are now swapping butter for olive oil when making risotto. Not only is it a healthier option, but we can also more than make up for the missing butter by adding a little Parmesan cheese at the end.
Ham-and-cheese toasted sandwich. After a childhood spent spreading butter on rounds of sliced bread, there comes a moment in life when we discover we can achieve the same effect with olive oil. Try it: brush a little olive oil onto two slices of bread to make a ham-and-cheese toasted sandwich: it will come out of the sandwich toaster cooked to perfection.
Fairy cakes. Like sponge cakes, fairy cakes turn out just fine when made with olive oil. By choosing which kind to use, you can add subtle flavours to make your fairy cakes a real treat.
Soups and purees. It can be quite a shock to come across a recipe for a soup or puree that uses butter. We say: nay, nay and thrice nay! Olive oil is a lighter, more nutritional option that provides all the fat the dish needs.
Bread or pizza dough. In this case, olive oil isn’t only great for creating a lighter dish; it also helps avoid our bread or pizza turning into a cake!
White sauce. Although some people would be horrified at the thought of messing with a classic French recipe, this healthier version works perfectly well. It may be darker in colour and slightly stronger in flavour, but some cooks see that as more of a plus than a problem!
Toast at breakfast. All the wonders of olive oil we’ve seen so far apply just as well at breakfast, so why not try swapping toast with butter and marmalade for toast with olive oil and salt? Let’s not be under any illusions: the result is completely different. But toast with olive oil, salt and tomato or cured ham is a great way to start the day.
Fish pie. The secret to a good fish pie is to create a dish that brings out all the benefits of blue fish, for example. You might need to use cream to get the texture and consistency you want, but you can swap butter for olive oil without any worries. Beware: once you’ve tried fish pie made with olive oil, you won’t ever go back to butter. Take our word for it!